Growing up in East Devon means that I am not unfamiliar with The Donkey Sanctuary, however I shamefully admit that I haven’t visited since I was a wee girl child. So, on a rare sunny Sunday we packed up a picnic, a couple of dogs, and some good company and set on our way.
The Donkey Sanctuary is situated just outside of Sidmouth on the A3052 Branscombe road, and is easily accessible via car and bus. It is a dedicated stop on several local bus routes including a free ‘Hopper‘ service.
The Donkey Sanctuary is a completely dog friendly establishment and we were so pleased to see lots of other dogs on our arrival. We felt that they would be well within their rights to exclude dogs from the main ‘Donkey Areas’ however dogs were even allowed in the yard where visitors could wonder around amongst the donkeys. It seems like most of donkeys are very used to seeing lots of people and dogs and didn’t appear to mind the interaction in the slightest.
‘Buck playing it cool with the donkeys’
Accompanying us on our trip was my twin sister Claire and her partner Sam who are currently socialising their new Golden Retriever puppy, Bodhi.
Bodhi has only had his first set of Puppy vaccs, and due to the new protocol with Lepto4 vaccines, they have to wait another 4 weeks before Bodhi can walk around on his own four paws! To ensure he is a well socialised little pup they are carrying him in one of Sam’s camera bags and he absolutely loved looking at the Donkeys and meeting lots of new people.
The fantastic thing about The Donkey Sanctuary is that it can be as inexpensive or expensive as you like. On our arrival we headed straight for the designated picnic area, a secluded spot with several benches and sun-soaked grass. We are quite used to day trips on a budget so Joe packed us a picnic that any mother of 5 would have been proud of. For those looking for a treat, the sanctuary has it’s own on-site café ‘The Hayloft’ who offer some lush lunch options and gorgeous Devon Cream Teas. A gift shop is also on site for souvenirs, mementos and further information about The Donkey Sanctuary.
After our nostalgic lunch of Rocky bars and Babybels we took a slow jaunt around walking route ‘B’ and met some lovely donkey friends along the way. The sanctuary has a number of walking routes, each taking you a different direction through the Sanctuary owned farmland surrounding the initial site. Within their land, The Donkey Sanctuary work to maintain positive environments for all sorts of native species and even run a ‘Bat Walk’, giving visitors a chance to encounter the unusual and enchanting species.
‘A view of Walk B’
It felt as if we could have spent a lot more time exploring the Sanctuary’s grounds and would definitely like to return and take some longer walks around the estate. Unfortunately Bodhi was objecting to being carried around in a bag and was slung over Sam’s shoulder in a bid to stop the wriggling.
As well as the beautifully maintained walking routes, The Donkey Sanctuary offer many other visitor activities including a nature centre, treasure hunt, guided tours and a maze.
‘Attempting to figure out the maze’
Throughout the year the sanctuary host lots of events from summer and Christmas fairs to car shows to summer holiday activities. Also available is a ‘Bray and Stay’ experience where you can volunteer with the Donkeys and camp on site for the evening.
We had a fantastic time. The Donkey Sanctuary provided excellent socialisation for Bodhi the puppy, continued socialisation for Buck, and a beautiful and inexpensive day out for us. We will definitely be visiting again and will perhaps attend a fair or two.